Engineering human tissues in vitro: development, characterisation, and application
Tissues in the human body have a defined structure in that their growth and differentiation have developed in specific ways to create a cellular architecture that supports their function. Following this fundamental principle that ‘from structure comes function’ we can develop in vitro models that resemble elements of the anatomy and physiology of real human tissues. This can be achieved through our understanding of tissue development and morphology, and the application of innovative technologies to build mature, functional tissue equivalents. Such innovation often occurs at the interface between disciplines such as biological, chemistry, and engineering.
In my laboratory, we specialise in the development of novel approaches to culturing cells in vitro, to enhance cell viability, growth, and differentiation, to enable the creation of human tissue mimetics that can subsequently be used for basic research, drug screening, and the assessment of chemicals. In this project, we will focus on the construction of human epithelial tissues and their functional properties. There are many examples of different epithelia in the body (for example, skin, oral mucosa, intestine, etc.). They share certain structural features that are common to each that we will attempt to recreate in vitro. Cells from primary sources, cell lines, and stem cell derivatives, will be used to construct in vitro co-culture models of epithelia and their underlying stromal tissues. The anatomy and physiology of these constructs will be assessed alongside real tissues using a variety of modern cellular and molecular methods. As part of the project, we are also interested in developing new cell technologies to further improve the culture and differentiation of human tissues in vitro. We therefore also invite applicants who are interested in working at the interface between biology and the physical sciences. For further information about our research please visit my research staff profile.
Successful applicants will join a busy and productive research group. The project will provide excellent training in the development of non-animal in vitro technologies, cell biology, tissue specific anatomy/physiology, engineering human tissues, stem cell science and cell differentiation, and advanced cell technologies. The student will master a range of cutting edge techniques to advance their research programme, including advanced 3D cell culture, cell and molecular biology, tissue analysis, histology, cell-based assays, and imaging (advanced light and electron microscopy). The student will train to become a research scientist, develop ownership of their project, and become expert in their field of interest. The Department of Biosciences at Durham University has excellent research facilities and training support programme to prepare the student for a successful career in scientific research.